I watched this fim with a friend who has never read the book. I, on the other hand, read it years ago, but wasn't interested enough to continue with the series. However, I was willing to judge it as a film on its own merits, not as a book adaptation. By the end of the movie, we were left disappointed. It was rushed, choppy, unevenly paced, and made no effort to define the world it was set in. All the characters could have died and we would have felt nothing because the film did little to make us care them.
FLAWS IN THE FILM:
- The script was so atrocious that we began predicting what characters would say next during the cheesiest scenes. 95% of the time, we were right - word for word. When Jace said to Clary, "I told you I'd never met an angel ", I said, "Please, for the love of god, don't say: 'now I have'". He did. We died a little.
- There was zero character development. Clary had no personality. When we tried to describe her, we could not come up with a single adjective as we knew nothing about this girl. (Actually, that's a lie. When she pulled the mortal cup out of the card in front of the witch who was obviously a demon, and then again in front of Hodge, my friend yelled, "How are you so STUPID?".) Clary was presented as the protagonist even though we were given no reason to root for her or care about her. We. Knew. Zilch. About. Her. (Beyond being prone to dumb and reckless behavior). It didn't help that Lily Collins, while pretty, has no on-screen charisma. She was just a bland attractive girl. The other characters suffered equally. We could tell that Simon was nerdy, Isabelle liked slutty clothes and fighting, Valentine was evil, Hodge was sketchy, Luke was some kind of family friend (why, who knows?) and Jace was the standard romantic lead with a penchant for sappy lines and rescuing Clary. Beyond that, nothing.
- Words like 'the Clave', 'the accord', and others were thrown in without explanation.
- We were expected to believe that the mortal cup was some kind of holy grail even though the movie hardly explained how it functioned beyond a couple of statements about its necessity for making more shadow hunters. After all the build up with no clarification, my friend began to expect that the cup's powers would be demonstrated at the climax, making things clearer. Of course, this did not happen, and she was left unsatisfied. We cared about the mortal cup as much as we cared about the characters - which is to say, not at all.
- The Silent Brothers were never explained. They were just creepy dudes living under a graveyard.
- The weapons were ill-defined. They just did whatever the characters needed them to do at any given time - be it tattooing runes, slaying demons, or drilling magical peepholes through bookcases. They might as well have been Harry Potter wands.
- Clary inexplicably accuses Alec of being in love with Jace even though we saw no indication that he was even gay.
- The Clary and Jace romance felt forced. There was no build up. We were never shown why he would be attracted to her, or why she returned those feelings. When they finally kissed in the garden, it was uncomfortably awkward.
- In a seemingly random act, Valentine wanted Clary to drink his blood from the cup and no one knew why. Said my friend at this point: "Is he Jesus?"
- Loose ends. Simon is bitten by a vampire. At no point in the film does anybody bother to tell him this. Even when he storms out of the institute, Clary doesn't think to say, "By the way, a vampire bit you." We waited for the effects of the bite to manifest - to find out if he was a vampire or not. But in the end, we were forced to conclude that in the world of The Mortal Instruments, being bitten by vampires only improves your eyesight.
- The werewolves only existed to serve as expendable extras in fight scenes.
- Speaking of fight scenes, many went on for far too long. Time could have been better spent on character development so that we actually cared if anyone died in a fight.
- In the ultimate deus ex machina, Clary draws a rune that freezes all the demons. No one else has ever seen this rune. No one figures out how Clary knows how to draw it. It was like the screenwriters realized that their heroine had been useless and needed her to do something powerful to prove why she's the protagonist, since her talents thus far largely involved leading others into mortal peril.
- Why were they using fire to battle demons that looked as if they were made essentially out of fire? Do we spray water to stop a flood?
- The portal in the wall was supposed to take someone to the place they focused on or keep them in limbo. How did Valentine reach out of the portal to grab Clary after he gets shoved in?
- Clary draws a cleaning rune at the end of the movie and magically tidies her apartment. At that point, it just became ridiculous. Are there runes to trim cat toenails and enable WIFI as well?
I thought the whole Twilight franchise was awful but despite the dreadfulness of those movies, the plot was never unclear to even those with IQ deficiencies. I can't say the same about The Mortal Instruments.